Weblog: The football punter

Arnautovic can heap more misery on Stoke

Premier League
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Most West Ham fans hate having to watch their team at the London Stadium but at least there is a good chance they will still be taking in Premier League football next season.

Their place in the top flight should be secured with a victory over Stoke on Monday and a former Potter, who the Hammers faithful have taken to their hearts, could get them over the line.

A success against Stoke will take David Moyes's side nine points ahead of third-from-bottom Southampton with five games remaining, which would surely be enough.

The team have been galvanised since the ugly scenes at their 3-0 home defeat to Burnley on March 10, and former Stoke striker Marko Arnautovic has been the figurehead of that recovery after two goals in a 3-0 win over the Saints was followed by a resolute team display that helped them to a 1-1 draw at Chelsea.

The Austrian left Stoke under a cloud in the summer and while much of the ill-feeling seems to have been directed at former boss Mark Hughes, he would surely love to get one over his ex-employers.

While there have been frustrations in Stratford, results have not been that bad lately.

The defeat to Burnley is the only one the Hammers have suffered in their last six home matches and the fact the Clarets have won their last five games provides some context.

West Ham should get the better of Stoke, who have claimed just one away victory this season and are in desperate trouble.

The are six points behind 17th-placed Swansea with a much inferior goal difference, so a win in this match is crucial, but with the exception of Swiss playmaker Xherdan Shaqiri, they have little talent to inspire optimism.

Just seven goals in 12 games since the turn of the year suggest that they are about to go down with a whimper and manager Paul Lambert desperately needs to end a run of nine matches without a win.

The problem is that they don't look like getting it and, now Arnautovic has developed a fine understanding with Portugese forward Joao Mario, he looks a big price to make a difficult task begin to look like an impossible one.

M Arnautovic to score at any time

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Match in Focus


Arsenal v Tottenham

Home WinDrawAway Win
Key stats
  • Arsenal have scored two or more goals in five of their last seven matches
Expert verdict
Arsenal came from behind to get the better of rivals Tottenham in the Premier League earlier this month and should frank the form in their League Cup quarter-final clash. The Gunners’ 22-match unbeaten run finally came to an end at Southampton on Sunday, but the club has been rejuvenated by the arrival of Unai Emery. Spurs lacked the desire of their hosts in the recent 4-2 defeat at the Emirates.